#1368: “The ethics of breaking up with someone when you live together and nothing is Glaringly Awful.”

Hello!

I’ve trawled the archives, but I haven’t found anything in the breakups tag addressing the overlap of

1) Nothing is glaringly wrong

2) I live with this person

Also, I’m definitely overthinking this.

I’m a woman who is living with my boyfriend. On the whole, I enjoy dating him and living with him, but I’m starting to think this is not the person I want to be with for the rest of my life. No big flashing GET OUT NOW signs or anything like that, just an overwhelming sense of “this is fine for now, but not forever”.

So, if I know I want to break up with him eventually, is it unethical to stay with him for the next couple of years while he finishes school? He’s a student, and there’s a good chance he’d have to drop out (due to housing instability) if we broke up. I don’t want that to happen. And like, I love this man! I generally enjoy dating him! But it feels… icky to decide to leave and then not Go for another two years.

Agh! What’s the ethical thing to do here?

Thank you ❤

Hello there!

May I issue a the strongest possible recommendation against staying  in a relationship that you’re planning to end –for years (!!!)–without telling the other person how you feel or what you intend. Lying to people you love, purportedly for their own good, in a way that takes away their choices? This is not the way.

When you end an important relationship, there is no perfect way to deliver the news, there is no way to prevent the other person from getting hurt and upset, there is almost never a magic reason you can offer that will make it all right , and there is no way to plan for every possible eventuality. May I suggest the following order of operations, to be adapted as you see fit?

First, I see a lot of worry about how a break up will affect your partner, but almost none about what will happen to you. It’s time for you to daydream yourself into your new life, one where you are only responsible for you. If you knew for sure that you were breaking up, say,  a month from now, what would work best for your housing, education, and career options? What are your emergency funds like? Who could you call on for moral support, a place to crash, and other help? What would make all of this as easy and painless as possible for you? Thinking this all through doesn’t mean committing to any specific course of action, but I want you to remind yourself that you have options before you make any big decisions.

Next, when you’re ready, tell your boyfriend how you feel and give him a little time to react and make his own plans. One kindness you could do here is to take responsibility for the decision and make it as sure and as unambiguous as possible. “I’m so sorry to say this, but my feelings have changed, and I want to break up.When he asks why, do your best to make the “whys” about yourself, and don’t seek to justify it by listing his perceived shortcomings or convince him that this is for his own good. He didn’t do anything wrong, but your feelings have changed. You’ve realized that, while you love him, you don’t see yourself together in the long term. The fact that you want to break up is a good enough reason, you don’t need to manufacture an airtight case to convince him that it’s the right thing to do.

After that, maybe after everyone’s had a few days to process, it’s time to talk logistics: Who moves out, who stays, how and when does that happen? If you need to continue sharing the living space for a while, what are the ground rules and expectations for that? This is where I suggest getting extremely boring and specific, especially about money, space, and time. “For the next two months, howabout I’ll sleep in room A, you can sleep in room B, headphones and/or a closed door on either of our parts means ‘I’m not here’ unless there’s an emergency, we’ll split the bills this way, we’ll both agree not to bring any new partners or dates back here, and we’ll both do our best to give each other a lot of space and be considerate roommates while we find our footing.”  Keep in mind, he most likely hasn’t been doing the same planning you have, so it’s okay if he needs a little time to catch up. When in doubt, “Ideally, how would you like to handle ______?” is a good question to keep things constructive.

Once you’ve made & communicated the decisions, the sad, awkward grieving time starts for both of you. It’s not fun, nor is it avoidable, but also, it doesn’t last forever.

You mention that breaking up and living separately might jeopardize your boyfriend’s housing situation, and that’s not a silly fear. The question “But where will I live now?” will almost certainly come up in some form once he knows you want to leave the relationship. Here’s the thing: You don’t have to have the answer or solve the  problem. Breaking up means recusing yourself from planning the other person’s future. While it may not seem so, living with you is not the only choice he has. Roommates and shared housing options exist, on-campus housing exists, applying to become a Resident Assistant in exchange for free or less expensive on-campus housing exists, taking a semester off to work and save up exists, friends and family exist,* student loans exist (they SUCK, but they exist, and keeping students in school during a reversal in fortune is one of the things they’re actually for). Honestly, now, when he’s a student, might be the time he has the most outside resources and assistance available to him. I don’t know what his exact set of options looks like, and I won’t claim that they are all great compared to the life he planned with you, but I know that your partner had to figure out where and how to live long before he met you, and I trust that he will figure it out now. Of course, if you are in a position to put some “get back on your feet” funds aside for him without jeopardizing your own financial situation, that would be a very kind thing to do, but it’s not a requirement before you’re allowed to sever the romantic relationship.

[*Note: I don’t know if this applies to you, but over the years I’ve received many letters from people who are worried that if they break up, their partner will lose their “only person.” Even if that’s true, and the partner has managed to cultivate and maintain absolutely zero ties outside of the romantic relationship, it doesn’t fall to their soon-to-be-ex to make up for all other people on earth by staying in a situation that they don’t want to be in. In your case, if he’s a good, likable, pleasant guy that you’ve enjoyed dating, there’s absolutely no reason to think he wouldn’t be able to find someone equally great down the road. ]

It’s admirable that you are thinking about how a breakup will affect your partner, but withdrawing from a relationship means withdrawing from both responsibility for and control of the other person’s choices. Being honest with your boyfriend means giving him information that is essential to his ability to make good choices for himself. If he needs to plan for a future on his own, then it’s important that he knows that as soon as possible. Assumptions that he will be utterly helpless without you or that staying with him when you’re secretly planning to be gone is some kind of favor are kind to no one.

P.S. Surprise! Comments are open. I repeat: Comments are open on this post, at least for the next few days.. I want to hear from readers who have experienced Pretty Good Breakups, ones where even though there was crying and moving house and money stuff and difficult logistics, everybody was maximally considerate and kind under the circumstances. What specific thing did an ex do to make life easier for you, what did you do to make it easier for them, and how did it all turn out?

P.P.S. The spam filter still eats legitimate comments, so please do not worry if your comment does not appear immediately. I’ll release them as I can throughout the day.

115 thoughts on “#1368: “The ethics of breaking up with someone when you live together and nothing is Glaringly Awful.”

  1. This post hit hard because this was basically me, minus the living situation – I was 90% sure I wasn’t going to end up with my (now-ex) but I still loved him and it was too hard to end it. He ended it late last year, and although it hurt, I’m now dating someone else – whom I have a lot more compatibility with – and a bit grateful to him for doing so.

    1. It IS possible to keep being “roommates” if you both can handle it. People do that sometimes. You don’t know how he feels, but something is off and maybe not just with you. You could mention you “don’t see us married” — marriage can cool down his ardor even if he wants to keep sleeping w/you.
      Not that marriage is the only option, but if this is what you ARE feeling, and he’s not bringing it up, it might make it easier to talk about your goals not being in synch, rather than talking about not wanting to be w/him any more.
      It depends on what’s going on w/you both.

  2. Just an add-on to the folks worried about being somebody’s “only person” – my parents constructed a life in which my mother was my father’s “only person”. They loved each other very much, and I don’t think either perceived this as a problem. Except people aren’t immortal. Please know that you are absolutely incapable, by the laws of nature and physics, of guaranteeing you will always be there for someone, anyway. Watching my father try to learn to cook and clean while resisting his efforts to recruit me into his “only person” position have been painful and horrible. If you are someone’s “only person”, and you want to break up, I recommend earlier rather than later. And if you don’t want to break up, I recommend adding some “solo activities” to your routine. Let your “only” figure out how dinner and solitude works on stitch n bitch night, rather than after you’re gone.

    1. Oh, so very true. Watching my mom do this with pandemic and dementia on top is awful. My brother and I really feel that they would both have been better off getting divorced in middle age rather than my dad passing and my mom being a puddle.

    2. This….My mum won’t/can’t learn independence / adulting and she’s in her 60s. Doesn’t know how to budget despite fearing not having enough money, seems completely helpless and so on, in a really pervasive pattern in all kinds of ways.

      If I was in this situation, I would definitely break the news early. If I had the bandwidth, I would probably teach what I’m willing to teach. Maybe make some instructional videos.

      All that is “extra” perhaps. I come from a culture and family where men don’t have to learn domestic chores because their mother /hired help/ girlfriends/ wives are “supposed” to do it for them (thanks patriarchy) and my brothers are going to be in for a rude awakening if they ever move out.

    3. This is what’s going on with my parents as well. 😦 My mom is my dad’s only person. He pushes everyone away from him, including his own children. Now he’s had a heart attack a few years ago, hasn’t been taking care of himself and my mom has to quit her job she loves to take care of him. I offer to her any help I’m able to provide, it’s so hard. She refuses to talk about what she will do when he passes. I have no idea how my siblings and I are going to handle this or help her.

      1. This is going on with my parents as well. My mom’s pretty much my dad’s only person now that they’re long since retired. My dad retired on disability in his 50s (severe asthma caused by mildew in his office building, he literally couldn’t breathe at work, an ambulance had to be called more than once) and my mom retired in her mid-60s. Even while he was working my dad was pretty introverted, but he still had a few good friends, mostly from his college days that he still kept in touch with.

        But now he’s developed a phone phobia and won’t answer it if it rings. He also won’t answer texts, never mind send any on his own initiative. He didn’t even congratulate me on my 50th birthday last week, although he did send his love through my mom when she came over for coffee. I admit that if ha hadn’t, I would’ve been offended and hurt…

        My mom books all his medical appointments. We had Christmas dinner at my parents’ home, and my dad spent all that time in their bedroom, either asleep or faking it, because he didn’t feel up to spending any time with his family… Luckily we live in the same city, so we could leave after a few hours rather than stay overnight. It was weird.

        It probably sounds callous, but when the time comes, I really hope my dad dies before my mom does, because if she dies first, he’s going to go completely to pieces and look to me and my sister for support, and I’m honestly not sure if I can provide that support for him.

    4. So true, so, so true. My parents were extremely happy together, they genuinely were, and part of what I admired about their relationship (and neither of them was saintly or perfect or anything like that!), was how they absolutely did give each other ”own person” space and required it from each other. This was at a time when, at least where I was, women very much were expected to hurry back to give ”hubby” lunch, lest he die of hunger or whatever, and to be self-sacrificial and completely in service to their ”provider”, and indeed my mom did not work outside the home for several years while I was growing up, BUT she maintained and spent time with independently, her own personal friends, friends she’d had long before my dad, and had commitments and stuff that she did for herself, in service to herself, not me, not dad, always. He had his friends too, he had various hobbies and things that interested him alone. He was entirely capable of cooking and whilst he was privileged to have her taking care of the home, he absolutely was not afraid to join the parenting and house admin as and when.

      Essentially, they married late, having both had their own lives and stuff going on, and were incredibly happy and social, but not co-dependent. No one can be ”everything” to another person, it’s just not feasible.

    5. Agreed; a situation where someone actually has a one-person support system is dysfunctional by definition (even if there are no other problems at the moment, though too often that’s a sign of either abusive isolation or self-isolation due to mental illness), because it’s so fragile.

      We see an analogy in the current supply chain crisis: capitalists seeking to save money have shifted everything to just-in-time logistics, which lacks redundency by design (redundant systems cost money), with the result that when the non-redundant system inevitably fails, everything connected to it fails.

      So I will reiterate: if you are presently in a relationship where you are somebody’s only person, even if it’s working great in every way so far, recognize that it is not a kindness to the other person (nor to yourself, it’s too much to put all of another person’s support on oneself) and start encouraging the other person to expand zir supports (maybe even force the issue if necessary). It doesn’t even have to be that you’re dead or break up that could necessitate broader support – if you’re both in crisis at once and YOU need support, you won’t be able to also support your partner. There are several reasons it’s generally a good idea for people in romantic relationships to have some seperate time away from the partner and some seperate friends (or at least people who are primarily team-individual rather than team-couple, even if everyone gets along well), and this is one of the more important ones.

  3. I had an ex who literally helped me move. As in, rented the U-Haul, helped load it, drove it to my new place, and helped unload it. He even donated an unwanted couch to my cause.

    It was way above and beyond, and so, so kind of him. He said at the time, “I didn’t stop caring about you just because we’re not in a relationship anymore.”

    We stayed in sporadic touch and I was able to somewhat return the favor by copy-editing his masters thesis in fish biology, something I definitely wouldn’t have done for just anyone.

    We were very young and it was the first real relationship either of had been in, but with nearly thirty years’ hindsight, I am so proud of us both.

    1. I’m proud of you both too! This is a lovely thing to hear, especially as someone who hasn’t mastered the Art of the Friendly Breakup even with people I still care very much about

    2. LOVE this. An ex and I similarly did a “move out together” thing and split the cost of the truck, helped each other carry stuff, etc. It was painful (I cried several times) but we committed to making the move-out as easy as possible, which meant cooperating.

    3. My ex broke up with me and for financial reasons I ended up moving into the other bedroom. We stayed roommates for 6 years. It was awkward for the first couple of months and negotiating dating others and whatnot, but we got through it having realized we’re much better as friends than romantic partners. Eventually I made plans to buy an apartment nearby, and he came with me to give it a free inspection (his area of expertise) before I signed on the dotted line. The broker ended up selling my ex an apartment in the same building, so now we’ve been neighbors for 10 years. Two years ago I got ordained (thanks, Universal Life Church!) and performed his wedding to an awesome person who has also become a dear friend. Basically, I love a boyfriend but gained a brother and sister. Would never have happened if we’d kept trying to cram one another into the romantic box instead of the friendship box. You can love someone without being in love with them, and the rewards are still considerable!

    4. This is incredible. How mature you both were, even though young, to be able to put aside the undeniable crappiness quotient of the situation, to continue being kind and supportive to each other.

    5. utterly charming. “here’s a U-Haul with a free couch in it. Bye”. “Cool, Here’s a readable thesis about fish.” Byeee! Kinda adorbs.

  4. Oh I so feel for you, LW!

    My experience, if it’s helpful for you:
    Several years ago, I broke up with my partner of 3 years. We had dated all through college, and I was planning on moving across the country to be with them. The closer we got to graduation, the more discomfort I felt about uprooting my life to someone I wasn’t sure it would work out with long-term. It took me MONTHS (September through December) to break it off, because I was their “only” mental health support person and I was worried that the change in plans would precipitate a major crisis for them.

    When we finally broke up…it was fine! I mean, we were both miserable, and I cried on the phone to my mom twice a day every day for a week, but ultimately we were both OK and the break was clean. In fact, revoking my status as the sole pillar of support meant that they finally sought out professional help for the first time—which was one of the reasons I felt stuck in the relationship in the first place!

    If I could give one piece of advice to you in this situation, LW, it would be to trust your SO’s agency in filling the space that you’ve previously taken up in their support system. If I had stuck around and waited for my partner’s emotional state to be in the place where I felt ready to break up, we only would have gotten more enmeshed in the logistics of each other’s lives.

    Sending you solidarity and strength!

    1. Definitely seconding that “only person” dynamic where leaving means the other person finally reaches out to somebody else.

      In my case I always recommended to look into outside hobbies, but only when I had cut almost all ties the person finally tried out and discovered that it was fun to participate in a group hobby.

    2. My husband and I broke up in the past, and honestly the way he handled it is part of why I was very comfortable getting back together.

      I was at the time financially dependent on him, which he had invited me to do while I concentrated on grad school. So he felt it only fair to give me a good chunk of money to rely on while I looked for work, etc. He was pretty open-ended on when I had to have my stuff out as he wasn’t moving; and in return I cleaned out our common spaces first and fast.

      You may not stay friends longterm, or you may take a radio silence break; but right now it seems like you’re friends. What kind of help would you be able and willing to give any good friend in his situation? Storage in the spare room for boxes, carrying furniture, providing dinner on his moving/packing days? Figure out what you can give without harming yourself and it should help you both feel better about the end.

  5. OP – uff, I could have written this letter many many years ago and let me just say that I do not like the path that I chose. Mostly because I was not as honest and direct as I wish I was.

    Overall, very similar situation. Lived with him, nothing was glaringly wrong, but it had stopped working for me. Instead of saying that, I focused on one issue that had stopped working for me – he had recently graduated and was going through a cycle of temp jobs while looking for something permanent. So I called out this issue and said that if by the time our lease was up, he didn’t have a permanent position we couldn’t live together anymore. While this gave him months notice of my unhappiness on this issue, it didn’t flag my general unhappiness in the relationship and need to leave.

    The lease ended, we did move out but again I still wasn’t being clear about my feelings and desire to truly break up, opposed to “taking a break”. I was worried about him! I was worried that he had to move in with his parents and felt like I was being ‘the bad guy’. I also was so used to him being regularly in my life as a friend that the final split and how that would hurt my own feelings hadn’t really hit me.

    Ultimately it took me approximately 6 months from first vocalizing my initial desire around splitting to properly breaking up. And then more time after that to actually realizing that the split did in fact hurt. And while it’s been many years and there’s plenty of evidence that it did not ruin his life, if I could do it differently, I would. Not only was it not kind to him, it wasn’t kind to myself.

  6. I was 22. I loved my partner desperately, but I felt resigned to our life together. I didn’t want to feel resigned.

    After I left, we talked a bit. Neither of us was sure it was over (*), both of acknowledged we were constantly low level stressed.

    He kept the apartment, I left.

    I think what he did that helped most, was he didn’t say I was wrong. He said he loved me, but yeah, now wasn’t the time.

    (*) Several years later we literally bumped into each other on the street. We had a torrid affair. That ended, and we didn’t see each other for another 20 years. We chatted at a friend’s divorce party a few years back. No other contact.

  7. When my husband and I got divorced, we were already living apart, but I did force him to take a cash settlement so that he could move away and establish himself somewhere else if he wanted to (we’d moved to our current city for my job, he was a writer with a minimum wage job, he didn’t want to take any money from me but it was important to me that he have the means to leave if that’s what he wanted), and as we were sort of wrapping up and he was getting the last of his stuff from our apartment, we were really good about saying okay, this is when I’m leaving for work, I’ve left your pile in this room, hey, I got my stuff, thanks. We also had one car at the time (mine) so there was a lot of him taking the car when I was working from home so he could get his shit done, which was annoying but I felt like it was the least I could do under the circumstances (he didn’t want the divorce but he wasn’t an asshole about it, for the most part, which I really appreciated).

    The key part though was that I did everything I could/he asked me to to help him get out and settled in his new space with all his stuff instead of just what he needed immediately, and once the ‘you’re officially moved out’ date passed, that was it–he was on his own, taking care of his business, and I was on my own, taking care of mine, because like the Captain says, this person cannot be your responsibility forever. And like Clover above, I was really proud of us for being able to unwind a marriage that ended under difficult circumstances with such minimal drama.

    1. Crucial is that he, the partner who was ”thrown” by the situation, behaved in a decent, adult way, even though he must have been very upset and worried and all that stuff, quite apart from the emotional ”getting divorced” thing. Good faith is what’s needed, and obviously you both had it, and thus you were far better-placed to continue being kind and supportive towards him over the longer term. If only more people behaved like this, they’d be far happier!

  8. Oh boy, this is my first time actually posting a comment. I didn’t live with my ex, but when I saw the title of the post I JUMPED to get it open – because my ex could also be described as Fine! Like as in, if you asked me how the relationship was at the time, I would have said “it’s fine” rather than “it’s great!” Or even “it’s good!”. He was a polite young dude that liked me very much, and I liked him too. I enjoyed being with him. And I AGONIZED over what to do, because there was nothing wrong with him! Except that I didn’t want to be with him eventually. I called my brother and he actually gave me one of the best pieces of relationship advice I’ve ever gotten: “this person is a C- for you. That’s the truth. It’s sort of a passing grade, but it’s not the top of the class, and that’s not good enough for someone you’re going to spend your life with. That doesn’t mean he’s not an A+ for someone else! But you don’t stay with someone who’s only ever going to be a C- for you, because you BOTH deserve to be with people you are an A+ for.”
    It’s an extended metaphor, but it really helped me wrap my brain around the idea that there didn’t have to be any major problems for me to just not want to be in a relationship any more.
    We were lucky because we were long distance at the time, so one Skype call took care of the breaking up. But the second best thing, that I brought up and he agreed with, was 6 months no contact. And that was a huge blessing, because it’s real hard to move on when they’re still in your DMs. We’re not friendly now, because we didn’t really want to stay friends later, but it’s at least only slightly awkward if I see him in the grocery store, as opposed to deeply unpleasant.

    1. Yes, something similar happened to me, too, with my first real boyfriend when I was in my early 20s. I was much more in love with the idea of having a boyfriend at all than with my boyfriend. Because it was fine for most of the time, and because I was so inexperienced, I let it go on for far too long. I really should’ve realized that it wasn’t working out and broken up after a few months, instead the relationship lasted for about two years. I even broke up with him once and went back to him, which feels incredible now. He was sweet but very passive, and seemingly willing to go on forever, for as long as I was willing to stay in the relationship.

      Even if the relationship wasn’t abusive, there was no warmth in it. In fact, the relationship made me profoundly unhappy, to the point that I got diagnosed with depression and was put on medication for it for a while. But I’m still glad that in the end I had to break up with him, even if I had to go to therapy to realize that I needed to make some changes in my life, because that way I at least had to take responsibility for my decision. If I’d been successful in my attempts to provoke him into breaking up with me after the first breakup and after I went back to him, I’m afraid that I would’ve wasted months on blaming him for the breakup. But he was very conflict avoidant, so my attempts didn’t work because he just shut down and refused to argue. Neither of us wanted to stay friends after I decided the relationship was over, and because this happened nearly 30 years ago, I have no idea where he is now, and I probably wouldn’t recognize him if I ran into him in the street.

  9. I married a really lovely man. Kind, thoughtful, smart, we shared a lot of interests. And then one day, after a precipitating (NON-romantic) event at work, the relationship felt constricting, smothering, I needed to leave. It took me several months of thinking to finally talk to him about it. Because, why leave, he was and is, really wonderful. No “real” reason, except how I felt. Once we talked, I started looking for a new place to live. We didn’t tell people until I actually moved out what was happening, even attended a family wedding together. Neither of us wanted the drama.

    Once I left we did try couples counseling for a few months. This showed us both that the energy between us was gone. So, useful for not second guessing the decision.

    We attended each other’s second weddings and are still friends, though not close.

  10. Had a relationship that just sort of ran its course and inertia was the only thing keeping us together. I brought up breaking up, and he, relieved, agreed. There was crying and relocation, and cat-sitting for a bit, but we parted as friends.

  11. I broke up with someone I was living with, not in an explosive way, but in this same “nothing is wrong-wrong but we just aren’t working anymore” way. We ended up continuing to live together for the next 5 months as he was heading to grad school in a different country and trying to find short-term accommodations for the few months until he left didn’t seem worth the hassle considering we were still on good terms. We stayed friends for a while after, and then slowly fell out of touch in the way that sometimes happens with friends that don’t live in the same city.

    It was hard, for sure, since it’s difficult to process a breakup from someone who is still in your space. But we sat down and set rules, including who slept in which room, how meals would work, how finances would work, what the rules were about touching (e.g., are hugs okay?), what the rules were about discussing our new dating lives, and that any new dates were not to come into the house.

    The biggest rule we set, and one I 110% recommend, is that if one person needed time alone, they could pay the other person to leave, no questions asked (the payment was so that there wasn’t an unfair burden on the person being asked to leave). So I could go to him and say “hey, I need the night alone, here’s $20 to go to a movie or get dinner at a friend’s house or something”, and he could do the same to me when he needed time.

    People didn’t really get it (I got so many questions from my parents/friends about why we were still living together, and why break up if we were still friends enough to live together), and that was the hardest part. But I’m glad we did it that way – we had time to have conversations and really grieve the relationship together, instead of suddenly disappearing from each other’s lives, and it was one of my healthiest breakups ever.

    1. I love the paying-each-other-to-leave bit! This should be a thing with all roommates, platonic or otherwise.

    2. I love your solution. When my ex and I broke up and still lived together, having one person out of the house regularly was key.

  12. I’ve been reading CA for years and this is the first time I’ve ever commented because it hits so close to home. I stayed in the fine-but-not-forever relationship for two years, putting off the breakup while my partner struggled with health and work stuff. I finally hit my limit two months into the pandemic, at which point my ex simply leaving wasn’t an option. I’ve become even more their One Person since then, between their family of origin being unsafe and the pandemic generally throwing everything off. They’re my best friend, I love them dearly, I’m happy to have them around, and I also deeply wish I’d broken up with them when I realized I wanted to four years ago. Thanks for your response to the LW, Cap, it’s important for me to remember too.

  13. I broke up with my live in partner, and we lived as housemates for a further 2 years afterwards very peacefully and both had respective other halves move in and it was fine. We are still very very good friends that have no idea why we dated and had more generic housemate issues with each other rather than anything else(dishes, I swear!). But we both came to the conclusion together that our relationship was already over and that it was already on the level of just good friends, so adjustment was minimal (mostly logistical in relocation some possessions to different rooms/cupboards). We had also previously had the relationship as open, and tried our hardest to be mature adults about everything, and nothing was unilateral, so I know it’s possible and will still not recommend it because people.

  14. LW, I’d like to tweak the captain’s advice a little bit. I’m not reading that you want to break up, necessarily, but that you’re not thinking of dating him as a long-term thing and you don’t want to lead him on if he’s not on the same page. If that’s true I’d suggest telling him you don’t see this as a long term thing and see what he has to say about that. Maybe it’ll wind up being the Captain’s script – if it’s not a long-term thing it’s best to break up. Or maybe he’d be fine continuing to date but everyone knows it won’t be for the long term. IF this is something you wouldn’t mind, tell him!

    The reason I bring this up is because you use the word ‘love’ in your letter, and this situation happened to me. I was in love with a man but knew I couldn’t marry him due to various logistical/practical reasons. I told him this, thinking we’d probably break up but he surprised me by coming up with a plan for how to resolve these differences. We have now been married nine years.

    Only you know your exact situation. Maybe the reasons it’s not a long-term thing are emotional or personality related, in which case the Captain’s advice is perfect. But if the reasons are more practical, or if you wouldn’t mind continuing to room platonically, please tell him.

    1. If you haven’t done one lately, it might also be worth doing a quick self-check on your mental health. Sometimes “ugh, it’s fine but I’m not really HAPPY” is more about where you’re at right now, not the relationship itself.

      Whenever I’m depressed or burned out, I want to leave my job and run away to Canada to live with the geese. I know that for me, that’s not because I need a different job; it’s because I’m tired and the spoon expenditure of my job feels like too much on top of everything else in my life. So I don’t necessarily start planning to leave my job; I prioritize self-care and boundaries at work, and try to be gentle with myself until I start feeling better.

      That’s not to say that LW is mentally ill or shouldn’t trust their feelings; “just not feeling it” is enough! You don’t need to stay until you’ve reached some perfect state of mental health, and your feelings are valid and worth acting on.

      I’ve just found it useful personally to check in with myself on topics like this, especially when I’m feeling a general kind of malaise and not specific complaints, to make sure my planned course of action really will get me closer to where I want to be, if that makes sense.

      (Work is an easier analogue for me, because my breakups aren’t super exciting. I hadn’t gotten to the point of major commitments or living together with anyone I’ve broken up with. Knock on wood, I guess; my current partners are wonderful.

      My last breakup was basically because they were looking for more of a serious emotional and time commitment than I could provide at the time, because I was temporarily parenting and it was taking up a ton of my energy. Which was super fair, and we were a little awkward around each other, but no hard feelings.

      I really appreciated that they came right out and said what they were feeling; I was much busier than I had expected to be when we started dating, and they deserved a fulfilling relationship that was working on a timetable that worked for them.)

      1. As a Canadian, believe me you don’t want to live with the geese. Canada Geese are total jerks!

        1. But man, do they have “unproductive frustration and aggression” down! It’s a pretty good match for how I feel on days like that, lol.

    2. I’d be a little bit worried about this approach for a couple of reasons:

      – LW seemed very concerned with her boyfriend’s well-being and made no mention of her own. If this is all indicative of a pattern between them, this could lead to her talking herself out of her realization that this relationship’s not for her for the long term.
      – If there’s any asymmetry in desire to remain in the relationship, opening the conversation as a discussion about timing rather than as a decision to break up frames it as negotiable and gives him hope to cling to.

      I think that’s why I’d lean towards the Captain’s advice to just rip the Band-Aid off. Of course, LW knows the dynamics of her relationship better than we do, and I’m well into speculation-based-on-tone-and-content-clues territory, but it really can be far kinder to end a relationship that doesn’t have a future than to prolong it. That said, I do appreciate the “all the cards on the table” approach in general, so LW, if you you’re reading this and think that’s something that would work well in your relationship, don’t let me deter you!

    3. I second this comment! Some people exclusively date to marry, but not everyone, and I believe it’s totally fine for consenting adults to be together in the short term so long as everyone is on the same page.

      I speak from experience: Many years ago, I was dating someone I adored, but I was also planning on moving for grad school. He and I had a very honest conversation: he loved the relationship that we had, but did not want to give up his life in our city and move across the country to follow me. Neither of us wanted to do long distance for what would probably be a decade. Nothing was wrong with our relationship in the short term, but for this reason we knew it wouldn’t work in the long term. We agreed that we would stay together until I moved, and it worked. We had a lovely but low-key relationship and an amicable breakup. Ten years later we are still good friends.

      LW: If you don’t want to build a long-term future with your boyfriend, you should tell him that. He has his own plans to make and he should make them with truthful information about you. That doesn’t mean you’re ethically obligated to break up immediately though: maybe he isn’t currently thinking about the distant future either. The important thing is you are honest with him about how you are thinking about the relationship. This will let him make the choice that is best for him and that he is comfortable with.

    4. I agree with this. Figure out what you really want and be transparent about it. There is no ethical obligation to leave someone as soon as you know you don’t want to be with them forever. But it would be unfair to leave him in the dark about it. It would also be unfair to yourself and him to stay out of a false sense of obligation if what you really want is to leave him now.

      But there is nothing wrong with “right now I’m happy being with you, I just don’t see this as a long term thing”. Then he can make his choices based on that information.

  15. As someone who has been on the other side of the equation when one person wanted to end it eventually but stalled in telling me — I did not view that as a kindness. Life is short, and most people want to be putting their time, energy, and attention into building a relationship that is going to continue into the future. If it’s not going to do that, your boyfriend should be able to choose to put that time, energy and attention toward something else that is going to serve him long term, be that school, family/friends, or another romantic relationship. If you’re sure, don’t delay.

    1. Yes!

      Consider also that a partner who hears “I want to break up” and argues that you should have stayed, lied, and pretended and/or tries to make you responsible for their entire future is making an *excellent* case that “now” was exactly the right time to find this out. Waiting would NOT have made it any easier.

      1. I had that partner! When I decided to break up, he was trying to tell me I should have given him another chance – and all I could think was: “But I know I want to leave, are you telling me I should lie to you and put you on probation so that I can later judge whether you have jumped all the right hoops to be worthy of me twisting my heart into knots to continue to pretend I love you?”

    2. You’re exactly right! I was on that side of the situation, as well. I had tried talking to my now-ex-husband about how it seemed like he was afraid to tell me that he wanted out. He said he had some personal mental health issues to work through but it wasn’t about “us.” Months later he wanted to see a marriage counselor because he wanted to get our relationship back on track. More months go by, and he finally tells me that he’s wanted a divorce for at least a year but felt too guilty to say anything. Most recently, he’d pretended to put effort into the relationship so that “the holidays” wouldn’t be “ruined.” (Apparently Halloween – late January is breakup blackout dates?)

      It infuriated me that I didn’t get to make choices about how to spend my own time. I felt disrespected and foolish (years later, only the feelings of foolishness have faded). It felt like a mean way to be treated.

      Respect your SO enough to tell him the truth. Give him his agency back. Trust that you both can handle it! It might not be fun, but it’s way less fun to think you were being strung along out of pity, I promise.

      As for me, I kept our place, and he moved out later that year. I gave him plenty of time to find somewhere to live. After a about 8 weeks, I gave him a heads up that a month later, I’d be staying with friends for a week, and when I returned, he wouldn’t live with me any longer. That’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s doable if there’s trust that the other isn’t going to trash your stuff or something.

      I told him then, and I’ll tell you now: There’s no need for guilt over changing your mind. You’re allowed to do that! You can have empathy for the other person, of course, but guilt is misplaced. You should only feel guilty for being unkind & disrespectful.

  16. I have been on both sides of this and this advice is solid.

    My first partner was amazing and I still think fondly of them, but we weren’t a perfect fit. After years of dating, when I realized that, we still continued to date a few months before we broke up and that is my biggest regret. I didn’t realize that my behavior changed and that I was pulling away, but my partner did and I could see the confusion and hurt in their eyes.

    My second experience is on the other side when my partner broke up with me and we were living together. Things were fine between us and the lease was ending soon, so we made a plan to continue living together until then. I was grateful for it because I was in a not good financial place and those two months helped me plan and save. I had noticed this partner pulling away too for some time and it was a relief to finally have an explanation than to continue to think I am crazy and be upset.

    Breakups are sad, but it’s always better to be honest than to avoid the inevitable and make your partner wonder why you are acting differently.

    best of luck LW!

  17. I have been on both sides of this and this advice is solid.

    My first partner was amazing and I still think fondly of them, but we weren’t a perfect fit. After years of dating, when I realized that, we still continued to date a few months before we broke up and that is my biggest regret. I didn’t realize that my behavior changed and that I was pulling away, but my partner did and I could see the confusion and hurt in their eyes.

    My second experience is on the other side when my partner broke up with me and we were living together. Things were fine between us and the lease was ending soon, so we made a plan to continue living together until then. I was grateful for it because I was in a not good financial place and those two months helped me plan and save. I had noticed this partner pulling away too for some time and it was a relief to finally have an explanation than to continue to think I am crazy and be upset.

    Breakups are sad, but it’s always better to be honest than to avoid the inevitable and make your partner wonder why you are acting differently.

    best of luck LW!

  18. I can only echo what others have said as The Most Important Thing: respect (and require) your partner’s agency. Hopefully, when you come clean about your feelings, he will in turn take responsibility for his – but you cannot control how he responds, only how you behave.

    I think it’s important to remember that, as his housemate, you can make a go at providing pragmatic support while he figures out his next logistical move – but as his ex, you are the #1 worst possible person to try to provide him emotional support through your own breakup.

    My marriage ended in an uncontested divorce, and the relationship was *not* all sunshine and daisies – but we did still manage to go our separate ways in a basically civil fashion, and minimize the logistical upset on both sides as we split. A huge part of that was steering clear of each other so we didn’t get our raw feelings on one another any more than we absolutely had to. Our conversations were exclusively about logistics, not about emotions; discussions about emotions happened with our respective friends, away from each other.

    We talked out who would keep what. We talked out who would move out, and when, and how the move-out would be managed, and what rules of behavior we would observe in order to give each other space until he was moved out. Exactly as the Captain said – boring and specific.

  19. My ex and I remained cordial, if not friendly, while living together. We didn’t bring people over, and the only thing I really got emotional over (besides moving out, which was just hard, as moving tends to be) was the cats. I think we both realized that being as generous as possible with the stuff/money/logistics aspects meant that they didn’t exacerbate what was already a difficult situation emotionally.

  20. My last year in college I was living with my boyfriend (and two other roommates) in a 4-bedroom apartment. BF and I were fighting, mostly because we had different ideas about what our future looked like long term — we got along great as “college dating people” but in the long term I wanted monogamy/marriage/children and he did not.

    One day breaking up was the topic of the fight, and the solution we landed on was “planned break up” — we would continue to be romantic partners right up until I graduated and moved to another state to start my post-college job. This agreement removed all the pressure of conflicting long-term plans, and meant we got to enjoy each other’s company. He even drove me to VA and helped me move in, and hung out for a few days. As he left, he said — we’re still good on our plan, right? I said YES and we shook hands and parted.

    It was honestly the best break up I’ve ever had. We even took a friends road trip a year or two later — we have a lot of fun together, just not good forever romantic partners.

    1. Planning a sunset date, especially if there is a natural break point, is a great idea! Of course, it has to work for both people – some will want to not “waste” time/energy on a relationship with a planned end. Planning ahead is the human superpower, and as much as many people value things like spontenaity and surprises for their own dake, I’m suspicious that the degree to which people insist that romantic relationships MUST rely only on emotion and impulse is a nefarious social norm, and even people who love spontenaity would be better served if we generally idealized a greater amount of planning with respect to our relationships.

  21. I ended a similar relationship, and it did not go particularly well. I’d worked hard to be clear, kind, and compassionate. I don’t know what I expected, but my peaceful easy-going boyfriend became angry and nasty, and kept insisting I “owed” him reasons/counselling/closure. He did not accept “I don’t want to be in a relationship anymore” at all, and went on lengthy rants (in person and in text/email).

    The realization I had was that I was not responsible for his emotions, NOT EVEN those related to me breaking up with him. I cut him some slack, recognizing it was a shock to him, but after a little while I had to put up big boundaries to feel safe and sane. As soon as was practical, I told him I needed to go full no-contact. Our whole social life was entwined and I had to walk away from most of my social circle for a time.

    He eventually sent me a message saying he was ashamed of how he reacted and was in counselling himself. We’ve bumped into each other occasionally, and it’s awkward-but-fine. We have mutual friends still, but that’s worked out okay too – some are more his friends than mine, and vice versa.

    If anything, I wish I’d broken up with him sooner.

    Good luck, follow Captain’s advice, and you’ll end up okay. ❤

  22. I stayed with my partner an extra year until graduation, though I knew I wanted to break up. I loved him, though not enough to stay forever, and thought I was being kind. I wasn’t. If you are not 100% all in, your boyfriend will sense it, and perhaps internalize it. Best to be honest now and share your feelings. The living together aspect is tricky, but so is graduating and finding out your partner has no intention of staying with you. Ouch. Breakups are awful. He will be okay. So will you.

  23. I had a breakup and stayed living with the guy–I started transition and he was straight, so… :shrug:. He continued to have his girlfriends over (we’d been poly with them), I had my new boyfriend over, there were occasional tears and/or friction over how to split such and such or who was leaving the kitchen more of a mess. It was not the worst roommate situation I’ve ever had, nor the worst breakup! In college is the best time for this, IMO; it’s easier to meet other people and roommates are expected and normal. If y’all had kids together this would get more complicated.

  24. Is it ethical to stay in a relationship with an expiration date? It depends, and the question of whether it’s ethical is separate from the question of whether it’s a good idea.

    When I was a student, I had a relationship with a built-in expiration date, but there were two crucial differences between my situation and the letter writer’s. First, we didn’t live together. And second, the decision was made for us because she was planning to transfer to a different university out of state.

    We sat down together and talked about it. We decided that we didn’t want to break up, but neither of us wanted to be in a long-distance relationship so we’d break up when she moved. Easy peasy, right? Except for the fact that life doesn’t always go as planned – she broke up with me a month before the move to enter a long-distance relationship with a guy she knew from online gaming who lived in another state and she had never met in person. I was gutted, and it took me a long time to get over it. Nothing was unethical here, but it still ended up being a bad idea.

    Now on to this situation: the expiration date only exists in your head. In this case, yeah, it would be unethical to not say anything, because it deprives the boyfriend of the ability to make informed choices about his own future and relationships. But even if he says he wants to stay together until graduation, life may have other plans. In the long term, it’s a better idea to rip off the proverbial band-aid. Good luck.

  25. It may not have been a perfect break up (sad calls months later from one side), but the move-out was handled well. She told me it needed to end (though I wasn’t surprised), and she said she’d leave but would help pay until I found a replacement roommate. Turns out I found one fairly quickly and she didn’t have to pay anything, etc. On my side, I made sure the new roommate paid out her security deposit and so on, but the overall point is being honest and then, after the initial shock subsides, sitting down and figuring out logistics is the way.

  26. I don’t have good advice about friendly breakups but I do want to join the chorus of “don’t stay the 2 years because you feel like you should” —- I experienced 6 months of this with a former partner who claimed everything was fine but was subtly pulling away. In the end, when he initiated a breakup it was rough but it was at least a relief to know that I wasn’t going crazy. It was much easier to be single and figuring out logistics and feeling sad than it was to be together but feeling like something was secretly wrong. If I get in that situation again, I’m going to initiate a breakup as soon as I start experiencing lingering feelings of low-key not-rightness

    1. This, big time. Something similar happened to me too, and instead of looking at the actions and going “oh, I don’t like where this is headed, we should probably break up,” I believed the words of “everything is fine” and “our relationship is solid,” only to be dumped, cruelly, a few months later. If I’d looked at the actions more, I could have at least gotten out sooner, with less heartbreak (and therapy).

  27. If he’s dating you, he’s missing out on chances on dating other people, including someone who he will potentially be with forever. (Assuming you’re exclusive.)

    My first boyfriend was a total sweetheart. I dumped him when I realized I didn’t see us forever anymore (I would rather be alone than with someone who isn’t my forever person–YMMV). He dated some other people in college and from what I’ve heard through the grapevine (his sister is married to a friend of my sister’s) is now married to a nice woman he met overseas after college. I suspect we both needed our other college relationships before figuring out exactly what we wanted in a long-term partner/spouse.

  28. I was in a situation very similar to yours, with the added complication that I had sponsored the person for immigration and was, in fact, legally responsible for them not going on social assistance for a time after they immigrated. There came a moment when I knew I was done with the relationship – something I was completely sure about, despite being very sad about it because they were a good person who I still cared about – but still had another year and a half to go of legal financial responsibility for supporting this person.

    My problematic mother strongly lobbied me to stay until the end of the support period. I am actually glad she did because there was a part of my brain that had been thinking the same thing, and her enthusiastically verbalizing all of the ill-advised and poorly-founded rationales for doing so is what made me so sure that I couldn’t and wouldn’t do that. Not to myself, and not to them. I hate being lied to more than almost anything in this world, and I imagined what I would feel like if someone broke up with me riiiight after the end of the period for which they were legally required to support me. How epically shitty would that feel? “Well, just stay an extra year or two after that,” my mother said tidily. The visceral gut clench of horror brought on by that line of reasoning made it clear that I needed to be honest now, whatever the consequences.

    I told them I wanted to end it. It was really, really hard. There were a lot of questions – they wanted to know why and I could offer little more than, “I don’t want this anymore, I’m sorry, you’re still great but I am completely sure I want out.” They tried to bargain, along the lines of, “but things are pretty okay, surely we can fix this, relationships take work, please just try,” and it was heart-wrenching to be honest and say that I knew trying wouldn’t work *because I didn’t want to try*.

    It took them two weeks to accept I meant it. I tried to give them space (in our shared apartment) and I slept on a futon in the second bedroom and went out to coffee shops and friends’ houses as much as possible. I tried to answer only questions it made sense to answer, and not the ones they were asking just due to shock and grieving. After that, we slowly started talking logistics. We shared the apartment (separate rooms) for a month and a half while I helped them find a new place. We talked about money: they agreed to keep working and try their best to cover all their expenses, and I agreed to cover whatever shortfalls they had. I paid first and last months’ rent for their new place and helped them move their stuff. We stayed in touch for administrative stuff, and they needed to ask me for money once, but overall it was okay.

    The hard thing for me emotionally was their transition from being sad and shocked the relationship was ending to being quite cold and more than a little resentful once they had accepted it and started to move on. I had hoped we’d be able to maintain some kind of friendship, but it turned out not to be the case. Six years later, we barely talk. I am sad about that, but I still think I made the right decision.

    Lying to someone because you think it’s what they’d want is almost never the kind thing to do. It’s based in fear more often than anything else, I think. If you care about this person, that’s all the more reason to tell them the truth. Don’t steal two years of their life with a lie they didn’t ask for.

  29. My ex broke up with me and moved out midway through a lease. She was making quite a bit more than me at the time and I couldn’t afford our lease on my own. She offered to continue paying her half of the rent until the end of the lease, which meant I didn’t have to move out of an apartment that I loved right away and had time to try and find a new job that would cover my costs. I also continued to store most of her stuff and furniture for that duration, since she moved into a shared house/roommate situation and didn’t have the space right away. At the time, I justified it to myself as her paying rent to store her stuff, but it truly was just a very kind act and one that I appreciated a great deal. We’re still good friends.

    1. That’s kinda awesome. I’m a big proponent of having an emergency fund for ANY roommate situation, so you can get out but not financially screw the other person. Before I got married (and lived with others), I always kept enough in the bank to pay a couple months’ rent, a lease-break fee, or the upcharge of going month-to-month. Gave me peace of mind to know I could decide to move out and say to the roommate, “Look I know this leaves you in a bad spot, so I’ll pay to break the lease and cover the last month’s rent.”

  30. My first husband (we SHOULD HAVE broken up at the stage where you are now, but I made the mistake of thinking there was No Good Reason to break up) and I broke up relatively amicably, while he was still in college (I had just graduated). If anything, I think that made it a little easier: he still had the support of his classmates and professors and friends, and the stability/normality of all those parts of his life, and also he had parents who still considered him at least partially eligible to be dependent on them. (But perhaps your boyfriend is not at that same stage of life. In which case I agree with The Captain that he still has many options available to students.) It also made things easier for the reasons The Captain mentions: as a student, he was able to use college resources to easily find cheap housing with other students. We rented a truck and moved my stuff to my new apartment, and then moved his stuff to his new apartment.

    Thinking about his life after the break-up (it was very much harder on him than it was on me, since I was the one who Wanted Out), it was definitely better to do it sooner rather than later: the MAIN thing was that it let him make his post-graduation plans without me, and those plans would have been WILDLY DIFFERENT (and not in his preferred direction) if he’d made them with me in mind. He’s now living pretty much his ideal life, which I would never have agreed to, with a lovely woman who wanted all the same things he wanted, and I’m genuinely so happy for them (and so relieved for me!).

    1. I think you make a great point about the resources available while someone is a student.

      Graduating can be a really jarring transition in so many ways, especially if you struggle to find employment in your preferred field—waiting to break up right when a partner graduates is not necessarily a kindness.

      I was devastated when my ex broke up with me when I was halfway through my degree, but in retrospect it would have been *so much worse* to process that breakup while also job-hunting and generally learning how to function without the familiar structure and routines of student life.

  31. My freshman year of college, I was in a long distance relationship and my boyfriend waited to break up with me for 3 months because he wanted to do so in person. He was trying to be kind but it made it really hard for me to trust people genuinely wanted to stay in a relationship for a while.

  32. I was the other person in this scenario, and because of that I feel that it is cruel to continue a relationship long after your feelings have changed. Please don’t go through the motions under the guise of “sparing” your partner’s feelings. It is much more kind to be honest with where you’re at and letting them know so they can make plans and adjustments based on this knowledge. What if he’s thinking this is a long-term situation when you’re considering ending it?

    The Captain’s advice and the other commenters here paint a hopeful picture – yes, it will be awkward at times, especially if you both end up living together after the relationship ends, but you will survive. And so will he. In fact, it could be a good thing for both of you to part ways. Amicable, even. You may help him move and he may take care of your pets.

  33. I’m in a similar position to OP. He’s fine. I like him. It’s not going to be a permanent thing. Right now my job is crazy stressful and I don’t have the bandwidth to do my job and also do anything else (including reading an entire book, doing anything creative, making and eating food more than once a day, speaking in sentences of more than three words outside of work; or breaking up; no, it’s not great but it’s also not going to be this bad forever); we moved in together just under a year ago to a place he can’t afford without my input (I have an apartment near work where I spend the week, and I come back to the house on weekends) and moving all his stuff is a HUGE, ideally once-a-decade job; he’s already been left by a woman, for a woman, twice, and I would most likely eventually end up being #3.
    He’s a sweetheart and weird and funny and we have incredibly huge differences of opinion about things like whether women are humans or aliens and climate change and The Ongoing Virus Situation.
    I’ve been upfront and used my words and said that I don’t see this being permanent, but that it’s good now, and when it stops being good I’ll grab the stuff that belongs to me, leave the stuff we bought together, and go to the apartment full-time. He says he’s fine with that. I know I’m being fair but I can’t shake the feeling that I should do more.
    tl;dr humans are complicated.

  34. My kid and their SO of six years had a civil breakup (my impression is non-acrimonious, SO needed different things from life). They continued to live together peacefully while ex found new living situation. They were both on the lease. Kid made it a point to tell us that they had agreed ex would move out and kid would keep the apartment and cover the full rent, “so I don’t know how the tenant laws work here but if I get hit by a bus tomorrow you should absolutely honor that.”

  35. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging that some romantic relationships have expiration dates. Many people date in high school and college with the understanding that the relationship may not continue after graduation. Most romantic relationships are not lifelong.

    To speak about my own situation, my current partner and I agree that we will probably date for 2-6 years. We’ve been dating for about 3 years now and are very happy together. We sometimes make plans for our eventual moving apart, like who gets to keep which cat, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t enjoying our relationship.

    The issue for this letter-writer is that they haven’t had a frank conversation with their partner about the State of the Relationship. Is everyone is happy and on board with what’s going on? If not, yes, they should break up. Staying in a relationship past when we want to will only build resentment.

    But I just want to say that it’s OK to be in a comfortable, loving, enjoyable relationship knowing that it won’t last forever – there’s no need to cut that short. Unless, of course, that’s what they really want.

  36. Thanks to Captain Awkward’s archives, I was able to gracefully end a relationship a few years ago where everything was perfect except for my vision of the future.

    Two things helped in the aftermath:

    1. I *privately* contacted one or two of her very close friends who I knew would be gentle to check in on her afterward. This was especially helpful since I knew she was prone to closing off and tearing herself up on the inside when upset.

    2. I blacklisted all of her social media profiles temporarily so that I wouldn’t be refreshing them constantly to try to deduce her emotional state. I gave her space physically and virtually — but I did also make sure to send her a message to check in after a few days just so she knew the doors of communication were not at all shut.

    We did not live together, so I can’t comment on logistics, but I can commiserate over how *hard* it is.

    It’s almost harder to break up when there’s no clear red flag to use as an explanation. I leaned very hard on “My feelings have changed” to carry me through the understandable but repeated question of “But WHY?” I could tell she really wanted a list of grievances, something to make the whole situation make sense. But that would have been cruel, and I stuck to the script and let her feelings happen.

    I felt like a monster anyway.

    But eventually, we healed. We’re still best friends. We take trips together and hang out and confide in one another. I can’t promise you two will fall into the same comfortable pattern afterward, but it is definitely possible. It’s also possible that breaking up as a couple does not have to mean breaking up as roommates (IF it is an arrangement you are both happy to continue).

    Best of luck! Be kind to yourself, this is the compassionate thing to do even if it doesn’t feel like it.

  37. Years ago, the guy I’d been with 4.5 years broke up with me. We lived together two-ish months post-breakup. It was by all accounts a “pretty good break up.” Things that really helped:

    – He offered to pay for the consequences of his decision with actual money. We were right at the end of the lease, so we had to go month-to-month before we found new places to live. That was an upcharge over the usual monthly rent, so he paid that extra upcharge.

    – Both of us being out of the apartment as much as possible. Even in “pretty good breakups,” emotions happen, and it’s hard living in a space where everything is full of memories of the good times. I always made sure to run errands, have plans right after work AND have something that got me out on weekends.

    – We moved together. We used his truck to move both our respective belongings, cleaned the place out together, carried boxes together. Saved a lot of time and money by cooperating.

    – Discussed logistics in PUBLIC. We met regularly on a scheduled basis at a coffee shop to update each other on our progress in finding a new place, talk about splitting costs (made a spreadsheet), talked about who was keeping what shared furniture, etc. Again, emotions do happen, so having these talks in a place where we had to keep it together (not inside the beloved apartment we shared) helped a TON.

    – Sit on separate furniture when in common areas. It’s too easy to fall back into cuddling when you’re on a sofa together.

    – Always have something light and funny playing on the TV. While we were packing, going about our days in the common space, we just kept “The Office” on autoplay. So there was no silence. And we could pause to watch the funniest scenes when we needed a break.

  38. I’m extremely proud of how I handled things towards my ex-husband.

    -After telling him it was over, I took the cat with me to a hotel for a week. He had space to come to terms with it without having to see me or do any cat care. (I also frankly was worried about our safety, he had never felt rejected by me.)
    -I painstakingly researched the divorce process, found a lawyer and paid his $800 fee out of my own money, and found a way for us to get it done quickly without my ex getting served or having to go discuss anything in court. All he had to do for the divorce itself was pay the filing fee with a $150 check I filled out for him to sign that I then mailed with the other paperwork I put together, give me the last 4 digits of two account numbers (still took over a week) and show up to do signatures one (1) time during business hours at the notary three minutes from my house he was still living in.
    -He kept the joint bank account so he did not have to change payment information on anything.
    -I also left the joint email account open and speedily got the shared accounts I was keeping changed to my own separate email.
    -I had lists of things to ask about and cutter so it was never a drawn out conversation.
    -He was allowed to stay in my home in the office until he found a new place, and I was still foolishly friendly–I didn’t set a hard deadline for when he had to move out by (learn from my mistake, readers!), still made sure he had his favorite soda in the house, never yelled even listening to him giggle it up with the other woman, never brought dates around
    -I ordered him his replacement car title out of my own pocket so he could get my name off of it
    -I had him give me the cards so he couldn’t charge anything to them, but left him as an authorized user on my credit cards to help his odds with refinancing the car and being approved for apartments (I dragged his score up 200 points during our marriage)
    -I was supportive and encouraging to the tank him onto the tech career ladder with me the last two years of our marriage, even while I was thinking of leaving. He left his restart job he hated, and I waited until he was a month into working there to tell him it was over. (I didn’t sit on it, I truthfully wasn’t entirely sure I was going to leave him up until the words “It’s over.” came out of my mouth as I told him.
    -I agree with the good Captain that being unambiguous that there was no hope of reconciliation is kindest, and I even politely made it about how I need to focus on myself now, instead of telling him all about himself.
    -Burned a vacation day from my own job to find him movers to get him the hell out of my house, since he said he was busy with work and wouldn’t have time.

    He wasn’t as generous or kind. Was incredibly pissy when I showed up to the notary having accidentally dropped my wallet and needing to drive three minutes back to get it. Instead of applying for apartments, saving money, and coordinating his move, he used his time and money flying to see Other Woman I’d been gaslit about for months (flying to Florida when I’m extremely high risk for Covid).

    Looking back, I’m very proud of my conduct even though he really didn’t deserve it.

  39. My marriage was like this. I felt like it was just inevitable that we would get married, even though I didn’t feel overwhelmed by love. He was a nice guy but I should have broken up with him way before we married.
    It’s like a dress that’s lovely but doesn’t sit well on you. Move on to another rack. No point staring at the one that doesn’t fit perfectly. There’s a perfect fit for you out there.

  40. Five years ago (almost to the day) I broke up with my partner of eight years (lived together for five). The romantic part of our relationship has been over for a long time, and it took The Events of 2016 to wake me to up the fact that I wasn’t happy and I felt like I wasn’t living my own life.

    The way it worked is I told him I wasn’t happy and thought we should break up; he asked for a snack. I agreed to not make it official until I saw my therapist a few days later, but immediately started acting broken up and really taking care of myself for the first time instead of him. After seeing my therapist, he asked if we could see a couples counselor. I agreed, but told him it wouldn’t get us back together but we could use the session to end things the right way.

    In the two weeks of the first conversation and couples counseling session, I made plans to take a day off work, move back in with my sister and her husband, and have a weekend with close friends away from the city we lived in. (My ex-partner was terrified of change of all kinds, so I just made decisions: I knew he wouldn’t leave our place, so I made plans to. I knew he wouldn’t let the landlord or neighbors know, so I did. I took care of one utility, and I had it transferred to his name.) So on a Thursday, we met with the counselor, she helped us say goodbye to the relationships, we toasted it at home with whiskey, and the next day he went to his brother’s while I moved out.

    And except for a pre-planned coffee two months later, that was it. It was amicable and reasonable, and truly the best decision I ever made for myself. Even a good enough person can drain you, if you’re a giver and fixer. My family said later it was like I had died so slowly they didn’t realize it, and I spent the next two years coming back to life.

  41. Just to add to everyone’s excellent suggestions: one of the “dangers” of a breakup when nothing was really bad is the fleeting but recurrent temptation to get back together. What I did was to tell myself “if I start feeling like I want to date then again, I won’t approach the subject in any way for a month.” Then when I started wavering I’d add an event to my calendar for one month later saying “Talk to Ex if you still want to get back together.” And sure enough, when the day would come and I’d get the event notification, I’d just look at my phone in bittersweet compassion and day “yeah, that wasn’t such a good idea, and it passed.”

  42. I was in a semi-similar situation – living with a partner of several years, nothing glaringly bad but definitely Over; I was the one that could afford to keep the apartment we’d shared, but he could afford to move out quickly. Thing that helped a lot: when I broke things off, my next call was to a friend with a spare room (and cats!) who were good enough to put me up for a week or two. My ex could do his grieving and apartment-searching and packing without having me and all the FEELINGS underfoot, and I could do my grieving with the help of cats, and the cats were glad of all the extra attention. Doing that gave us both the emotional space that I was able to be helpful as well as civil on his moving day, and our interactions since have been pleasant. If you don’t have friends with a spare room, but can afford a hotel, I’d also suggest that – you don’t have to be worried about safety, as another commenter mentioned above, for a little space to be a good thing here.

  43. Not residential, but I have been on the receiving end of three breakups I’d describe as “good,” even though they still hurt a bit. What I appreciated about them was that they were

    1) Non-judgmental. No blame in word, tone, body language, etc.

    2) Clear. I did not get any mixed signals from them, and I understood why they were leaving, even if I didn’t like it.

    3) Prompt. I knew shortly after they did, and had more time to move on to a life without a partner who did not want to be with me, and fewer resources invested in that being them.
    The effect these had was that my emotional recovery was focused entirely on my grief over the loss, and not also on confusion, fear, anger, etc. over being lied to, etc, which actually made it faster and *far* less traumatic for me.

    Just for clarity, I would not necessarily recommend any of these in an abusive situation, as someone who doesn’t respect that your decision to leave is yours may try to abuse these to manipulate you into believing that your decision, in fact, relies on them agreeing with it, or worse. But having them helped me *enormously* in terms of moving on, so I think they’re worth offering in a non-abusive situation, as you seem to be describing yours, and I also think the first is otherwise necessary in a respectful relationship, and the third is otherwise necessary for a consensual one.

    I agree with the Captain’s advice. I suggest that the “icky” feeling you’re experiencing is possibly not over the possibility of staying together relationship you know will be short term, but of not having your partner’s informed consent to do so. If you have things to offer your partner to support him while he moves on, such as a place to stay, some financial support, or even a FWB arrangement or short-term relationship if that’s what you both want, definitely feel free to put those on the table for him to consider, but, as long as he’s as non-abusive as you seem to be describing him, he deserves to know the truth now, and have the chance to make those decisions for himself. That sounds like it would solve both your problem about wanting him to have access to supportive options that you feel comfortable providing, as well as not lying to him.

    I’m glad you found clarity about what you want, and I hope the future goes as smoothly and respectfully as possible for you both, and contains the satisfaction you both want.

  44. My ex husband and I broke up (with a kid) and we managed it in a friendly way by, as the Captain says, being annoyingly specific and considerate. We made a plan for how to handle everything – chores, money, kid stuff, new partner stuff, we talked it out and made an agreement that worked until we were able to set up alternate households. We also covered that in our agreement – who got what stuff, how to manage the return of security deposits when one of us was staying in our old place, etc. It helped a lot.

  45. Another post from the other side. I once dated a colleague. We didn’t have heaps in common so I didn’t expect it to last more than a year or two at most. 4 months after we started going out, I went overseas for a couple of weeks for a friend’s wedding. While I was away, it was my birthday, he didn’t message all day, I was upset and we had a fight via text. When I got back, he was weird and withdrawn. I asked a couple of times if we were ok, he said yes. Then he went overseas for a wedding and… silence. Didn’t message, didn’t respond to my first email saying “hope you had a good flight, enjoy the wedding”. He did respond to my second message asking if he wanted me to buy a ticket to an event for him, but in a very noncommittal way. He came back, still silence. After a day or so I texted him to say “I guess we’re breaking up, I left a couple of things at your place, can I please have them back.”

    There were only 120 people in the company, it’s not like ghosting me was actually a viable option. He was clearly done before he left, it would have been so much kinder to break up with me beforehand so I had space to grieve while he was away. Even though I knew from the beginning it wasn’t going to be a long term thing, you still get attached and a break up is always hard. Don’t string someone along if you want to be gone. Even if you do it with the best of intentions, it can feel cruel.

  46. As someone who’s been on the other side of the issue, I encourage LW to take the good Captain’s advice.

    In my last relationship, my partner had been slowly cooling towards me and subconsciously pulling away for months, possibly even years. No identifiable flag saying “this was the moment when he started wanting out”, all I knew was that it wasn’t working – but my partner hated to be asked how he was feeling or what was wrong, and as a compromise to assuage some of my need for reassurance, he had faithfully promised to tell me if things weren’t okay. (Yeah, pro tip: don’t do that unless you’re planning on sticking by it.) He’d been planning the breakup for a while, and literally still telling me that we were fine and he loved me.

    He had planned to encourage me to visit my parents over the Easter long weekend that year, and then just move his stuff out while I was gone. I inadvertently precipitated the conversation a day early, and for once he was actually honest. The deception and betrayal hurt far worse than the breakup did, and left me with abandonment and trust issues for quite a while.

    In the end, the logistics of the breakup itself were quite simple. I went to stay at at a friend’s place that night and then with my parents for the long weekend, and while I was gone he moved his stuff out. He was gone by the time I got back, and all of a sudden I could breathe again — I wasn’t weighed down by this relationship that had slowly been sucking the life out of me because it wasn’t right but my Co-Relationship-Haver wasn’t helping me fix it.

    One of the things my ex said was that he was worried I wouldn’t cope without him because he felt I was dependent on him. What he was seeing was me making room for him in my life and making him a priority, and after a couple of sad days I was fine. We talked quite regularly and amiably after the breakup, which has slowly drifted away into a couple of messages every few months, six years later.

    LW, your soon-to-be-ex will be fine. Your desire to make sure they’re okay is commendable, but staying in a relationship that you want out of isn’t kind to either of you.

  47. Lw, this was me two years ago. I had come out as a lesbian to my wonderful (male) partner of seven years, with whom I lived, and at first we decided to stay together anyway. I guess deep down we both knew it couldn’t really last, but we were so important to one another and the cause was so external to our relationship (nobody had done anything wrong!) that we decided to kick that can down the road. Months later, I couldn’t take it anymore, and broke up with him. I offered to move out, he offered to let me stay and move out instead, which was much better for me (for reasons). We were both kind, considerate and full of affection for the other. And yet, after a couple of months I wanted to SCREAM, I wanted a space that was just mine, I wanted to start grieving the loss of that relationship without having him around everyday. Basically what I want to say is: I believe you that right now you feel like you could go on for years. But I thought so too, and after a few months I needed OUT, both from the relationship at first and from the shared housing later. So, consider that even if right now you feel fine thinking “sure, we can share housing for two more years, no biggie” it could become untenable soon, and it might make you both much angrier at the other person. I’m still great friends with my ex, but it got dramatically better once we had some distance between us, both physical and metaphorical. Many internet hugs, if wanted. It will get better

  48. Ugh, LW I feel you. I had the “I love you, but our lives are pointed in opposite directions” conversation around the holidays. We were together for 11 years, and spent 3 of that trying to reconcile this.

    It’s actually been really great. We make good roommates, we care about each other’s wellbeing, it’s spurred him to reconnect with friends he lost touch with during the pandemic, all our mutual friends are thrilled not to have to pick sides. I was able to take the time to find a place i really like to move into, and he is going to look for a roommate for our current apartment.

    My previous long term relationship i was blindsided by the breakup and then my request for low contact whole i grieved and healed was ignored and it broke the friendship though, so don’t try to solve what he doesn’t want solved. If he needs to move out fast or spend a lot of time sleeping over at a friend’s house, don’t stop him or judge him. Sometimes having that space is the difference between staying long term friends and losing touch.

  49. When my spouse and I were breaking up, we instituted “Talk Sunday” which was a set period of usually a couple of hours, once a week (you can guess which day) when we would go over difficult logistical questions.

    We opened the conversation with an affirmation to each other, each of us would say something like “I care about you and want the best for you” to each other before we started. Sounds painfully dorky but it worked. Then we’d talk through whatever thing, and then when it was done, we’d be done. Throughout the week we’d sometimes check in like ‘hey on Talk Sunday can we talk about X’ to give the other person a heads up. Or if needed we’d do a midweek ‘do you have time for a Talk Sunday tonight’ so it sort of became shorthand.

    Good luck OP 🙂

  50. When I was 16-18 I stayed in a relationship I wanted to leave for about 2 years because of issues/tragedies my then boyfriend was having and wow was it not worth it. I felt that I was his only person for much of that, but had I left it would’ve probably meant him turning to others or sucking it up til university, and, more importantly, me having better friendships because I wasn’t constantly seeing him and bearing all his burdens when I had my own. Finally, it wasn’t a kindness to let him think he was my future husband when I knew that was not the case!

  51. My partner and I have “officially” been broken up for 2 years now. As we own a home together and Covid threw a wrench into our moving-on plans for basically 2 straight years, we’re still living under the same roof. For us, it’s been pretty okay; arguably even better than when we were together the last couple years, as the framework for our relationship is now firmly in Roommate Territory, as opposed to trying to force a romance that clearly isn’t there any more (which was many times more awful to deal with).

    There have definitely had to be some resetting of boundaries (no, every single package that gets delivered to the house isn’t your business; no, I’m not going to be doing your laundry/vacuuming your room/cleaning up after you; yes, a phone conversation behind a closed door is placed firmly in the file labeled Beeswax: Not Yours, Inc.) but generally, we’ve made it work. However, I think that is due chiefly to the fact that neither of us are laboring under any delusions. I’m not secretly yearning to get back with him or vice-versa; neither of us tried to use lockdown as an opportunity to win back the other person while they were essentially a captive audience in the house. It *can* work, but only if both people ate fully aware of the other’s standpoint. Not when one person secretly wants to break up and the other has no idea.

  52. i had a couple of these “fine” relationships, but i didn’t really trust my assessment/gut feeling of whether i wanted to be with them long-term (NO). i kept thinking we could grow into something better or i could explain to them what was missing and they would change, ugh, or i could learn to be ok with how it was. my regrets are that i didn’t end things earlier, that i didn’t know how to listen to that gut feeling and walk away, rather than drag along in semi-comfort while struggling with so many doubts. i KNOW it’s hard when they are sweet and they adore you but you aren’t actually happy and satisfied or you see ways the future isn’t lining up. you seem pretty clear about what you want for YOURSELF and YOUR future. you are the only one who can make that future happen for yourself, so do the right thing for YOU. if you want to think of it as ethics, you owe your partner the chance to find someone who DOES want to be with him forever. you owe your partner honesty about your doubts and your future plans. you owe yourself the chance to start building the future that you actually want. you will both find better partners and ways to move yourselves forward. give him credit for being able to figure himself out (my exes did), give him self-determination. i wish you (both) all the best!

  53. For me, the thing about staying with a good person I didn’t really love anymore out of a sense of obligation was that it bred resentment. I tried so hard to do the “right” thing, but in the end what it came down to was that I was sacrificing my happiness to help/protect this person who a) didn’t realize our relationship was a “sacrifice” on my part and b) had no impetus to change because everything seemed fine to them. If you can break up while you’re just discontent, but before you’re angry or resentful, your own kindness will be so much easier to access.

  54. When my soon-to-be ex husband and I decided to live separately, it was EXTREMELY tense living in the house with him; moving out was the best thing I did, for him and me and for our child. I have a close friend who is trying to navigate a divorce by remaining in the marital home, with her husband and 3 small children, and it is hell for her. OP, you do need to break up (like the Captain says) but be prepared for an immense amount of pain, and for the knowledge that your presence is making that pain worse. This is not to say that you should not break up! Quite the opposite. The longer you wait, the worse the eventual pain. You can’t fake your way through this, you can’t fake your way through life. Eventually this will end. Sooner is better. People told me that, and I didn’t believe it, but it was true. I thought trying to stay and fix things would work. I’m glad I tried, but honestly I should have put my foot down earlier.

    (Sorry this is a bit of a run-on comment, but my friend sent me this post – I haven’t kept up over the years – and I needed to weigh in.)

    Good luck with everything. I’m so sorry.

  55. After we’d moved out of NYC together and embarked on freelance careers, the partner I lived with for the first half of my 20s started to have doubts about whether he wanted to have kids. Meanwhile, I realized that I really wanted to live in the city. We both expressed our doubts right around when they came up for us, then checked in regularly as our doubts solidified into wants and needs. We broke up. He paid my last 3 months of rent in our cottage so I could move back to NYC as soon as I wanted to, and he also drove me and a bunch of my stuff down there and put together the couch I ordered online. We’re good friends now, and I credit a lot of that to how transparent we were with each other and how much material help he gave me to make my move happen.

  56. Things that worked in my divorce:

    Conversations early and often. There was no out of the blue “we are breaking up,” there were several conversations where first I broached the idea, then she did, then I changed my mind, then she did, etc. We generally knew where the other person stood and knew that we could have painful conversations and also take pauses.

    Living in separate rooms as a trial to moving out. (Luckily we had a second room with a door, which we had previously used as a living room/office and which already had a futon.) It felt good just to have our own spaces and begin to see ourselves as separate individuals.

    Open conversation and total transparency about money. This was the hardest part for us. We used a divorce mediator to help.

    Our dynamic in the relationship had been very much “I’m the caretaker, she is the taken care of,” which wasn’t good for either of us and contributed to the necessity of breaking up, but also meant that the #1 thing I had to learn and which consistently made the breakup easier was how to let go of control and stop trying to solve her problems.

  57. A lot has been said here about people remaining friends with their ex, which is great, but also something I want to gently warn against depending on how your partner takes the breakup news. I ended a relationship like this one about 10 years ago and felt very responsible for my partner’s mental state afterwards. He had a big support system, but I still felt like I’d be leaving him out in the cold.
    Initially after the breakup, my ex tried to convince me – multiple times – we should get back together. When I refused, we agreed to take a couple months to go no contact and adjust to the breakup, then hang out as friends. Well, we did that (helped alleviate my guilt and I didn’t lose a friend), but I realized pretty quickly he was trying to (still) rekindle the relationship.

    We were great friends, but unfortunately he didn’t want to only be friends and us continuing to see each other and doing friendly things for one another (like getting each other’s mail when one of us was on a trip, feeding cats, etc.) was just rubbing salt in his emotional wounds. We ended our pretense of friendship one night over a year after we initially broke up when he declared his love for me, I didn’t handle it well, and we got into an ugly fight which ended with him saying “have a nice life” and slamming the door.

    My ex is currently married with kids and very happy as far as I can see on Facebook. So it all ended well, but remaining friends to alleviate guilt or try to salvage some part of a relationship once another part is over is not necessarily the way. You might not be friends after this, and it will hurt, but it will also be okay.

  58. Please break up with him now! I have just witnessed a situation where that didn’t happen, two people kept living together without breaking up, until one of them fell in love with someone else, and at that point the breakup was much more traumatic than it would have been if it happened two years ago. You may think that you are ok being in that partnership for now, but don’t discount the possibility that at some point you will feel more of the urge to leave (to be with someone else, for example), and then you will not have the bandwidth and the patience to take all the excellent steps that the captain recommended. Break up now while you still love him and you can do that kindly and generously.

  59. I had a version of the Good Breakup when I was in college.

    I realized, very shortly before my boyfriend was expected to arrive at my family’s house in New York to spend Christmas with us (we lived together, but I had come ahead by a week to spend more time with my parents), that I didn’t love him that way anymore and didn’t want to be in this relationship. I cried, I yelled at myself, I argued with myself, I tried to talk myself out of it — no dice. It was just very clear to me and I couldn’t logic my way out of the feeling.

    So I took a deep breath and called him. I told him, “Look, I know it sucks rocks to drop this on you right before you were supposed to come here for the holidays. So far as I’m concerned, you are welcome either to still come here and join us for Christmas as my friend, or to go wherever else makes you feel better than coming here will, and I will respect either choice and do my best to be kind to you if you do come. The reason I decided to tell you before you came, instead of after, was that I couldn’t imagine it would feel much better to hear after the fact and wonder — or more likely, know, because you know me pretty well — about whether or not I was hiding my feelings during the whole holiday you thought was going so well. I thought it was better to give you the truth and let you figure out what you want to do about it.”

    He actually thanked me for that, and after a day or so of thinking about it, he called me back and said he would like to come after all. My parents thought it was a big weird but welcomed him anyhow… they liked him, so that wasn’t hard. Sometimes, we had a good time together over that visit. Sometimes we stayed out of each other’s way. We didn’t have any of the hard talks… we saved that, by mutual agreement, till we’d gone home.

    Then I moved out into the local International House — a kind of independent dorm/hostel for students, which happened to have space for the upcoming term on short notice. We had two cats, one of whom was conveniently mostly bonded to him and the other to me, so we agreed to divide the cats along obvious lines, but he kept mine for me for the six months I spent in I-House, before I found an apartment and moved out into someplace where I could keep her.

    We owned two things together that were worth any significant amount of money: a glass-topped table we’d bought used, and our microwave. (This was in the early days of microwaves; they weren’t cheap.) Fortunately, they were worth about the same amount, and he was living in a much bigger space than I was, so I offered to trade him my half of the table for his half of the microwave. He agreed.

    All of this was minor, trivial stuff, but the fact that we handled it all quietly and with kindness made the big emotional stuff easier. And I think it all began from when I called him up and said, “I’m sorry for putting you in a rough position but I think that the least awful way to do this is to give you the facts and ask you how you want to handle it… so here’s the facts. How would you prefer to handle it?” It laid the groundwork for the rest of how we treated each other through the process.

    We don’t talk often, but we’re still on friendly terms, thirty years later.

  60. My son’s dad and I broke off our romantic relationship on the grounds that it was the piece that wasn’t working. We actually had a “honeymoon period” of about 9 months after that, during which things were better than they’d ever been.

    However, we did not set boundaries around dating others and that ultimately had Bad Consequences.

    Also, our finances were so tight and mental health so precarious that neither of us was actively looking to move out.

    What wound up happening is that he had his own mental health crisis at just about the same time that I was unsteadily getting on my feet again after mine, and I realized that I could not be there for him, much as I wanted to. I had to move out ASAP to preserve my mental health and ability to be a decent parent, and to give my ex the opportunity and motivation to seek additional help. I knew he would try to rely on me if I stayed, and that would be bad for all three of us.

    Six years later, he still feels betrayed and our relationship has not recovered.

    We started off good with the initial breakup though. So my contribution is to echo everything The Capitan and y’all are saying, from the other side. Pay attention to finances and boundaries to keep things as functional as possible. If necessary, ask for help from safe others.

  61. Best of luck to the OP! I will say, one of the best breakups I ever went through was in my mid-20s. I wanted to get married; he did not. I could not afford to live alone, at least, not right out of the gate.

    We went to couples therapy and it became clear within a few sessions that what we needed was to be guided into how to break up amicably. So that became our focus. I moved out onto the sofa, and started looking for places to live.

    It took a few months, but I found an inexpensive room with a friend that I could afford. I didn’t have a working car and was, honestly, not good at follow-through, so about a month later, he packed my stuff and brought it by. He was excited to see my cats. We chatted politely.

    We didn’t stay close friends, but we also don’t seem to have any bitterness toward each other. I think that’s a pretty good outcome.

  62. I got engaged, and was kinda excited and kinda not ready but working hard to ignore that part. Then we got married early at city hall because he needed insurance for surgery and I had some. I still don’t really regret getting married for that reason, even though I broke up with him six months after getting married.

    We were living in an apartment in my parents’ house, in the city I grew up in, and I had the better job, AND the breakup was my idea, so I set up with a friend of the family to stay there in advance of breaking up, and had an overnight bag packed. I finally sat him down to break up, and then went to stay with my family friend while we went through the struggle of the breakup, him catching up to how far along the “we need to break up” road I had gotten without him, etc. Even though it wasn’t ideal for him having to be in my parents’ basement while dealing with the breakup, at least he had a month of breathing room to figure out somewhere else to stay while I wasn’t in his hair. I think it helped that it was fully his apartment for that month even though we knew he wasn’t going to stay there indefinitely.

    We also started seeing a previous couple’s therapist to help us through the breakup, which I think made us clearer with each other than we might have been. And we took her advice to wait on doing the divorce paperwork until after the big breakup feelings were over, so it’s mostly just annoying paperwork and not Heartrending Paperwork. Not possible in all situations but it worked well for us. We waited more than a year before starting to work on legal divorce.

    I think I probably messed up a lot of things in that breakup but I do feel good about those two things.

  63. My partner broke up with me last year, about three months before the end of our shared lease and two months before I was due to study abroad. He immediately moved out, but we both paid the same rent for the rest of the lease, and he moved back in for the last month after I left. He also had a couple of days while setting up temporary housing where he couldn’t find anywhere safe; I stayed with family for those days but shut that down pretty quickly because I needed more stability. I was pretty grateful for the gesture that let me mostly not worry about housing on top of other breakup logistics, and we were lucky that that was financially feasible for him.

    We did end up getting back together, so please delete the comment if it doesn’t count for that reason.

  64. I just want to echo that people who depend on you as their “only person” in the world who provides them support are strangely adept at finding another “only person” to support them when you decide to opt out of that job. When my ex and I divorced, he had refused to work for the 12 years previously and I was the only financial, physical and emotional support person in his life. Our initial plan was to live as roommates for X amount of time until he got to a certain defined point that would allow him to move out on his own. After a couple of months, it became clear to me that this set-up was not conducive to my mental health and I asked him to move out even though he wasn’t at that defined point. This person – who couldn’t do a single adult thing on his own for over a decade – suddenly found a way to get along without my support. Granted, it was replacing me with someone else to fill all the roles I filled. But the point is, I no longer had to do it, and – SURPRISE! – he didn’t become homeless or die.

    It’s okay to put down the worry of how your STB-ex partner will make it and just focus on what YOU need to make it. Even if it seems like he can’t do it, he will be able to figure something out when you are no longer an option for him.

  65. When my partner broke up with me, I wept and wailed and was generally THE WORST. He took it amazingly well: didn’t react, argue, defend himself, explain, just listened and let me have my feelings all over the place. I imagine it must have been really hard for him, but it made a huge difference and I appreciate it.

    We lived together in his house, so I moved into the guest room while apartment hunting, and our schedules allowed us to avoid each other pretty effectively while feelings were raw. I had some advantages, in that a) I knew we weren’t a good fit long term, b) we didn’t own anything jointly, and c) I had plenty of friends and other outside support, but it still could have been a lot worse.

  66. I don’t have a ton to add here, but as someone who had a semi-mutual and amicable breakup/move out….

    My ex talked to his friends (our mutual friends) and said, “I’m really worried about Persimmon, she’s so dependent on me, I’m also worried she might hurt herself.”

    I was blazing mad. Mutual friends rightfully laughed him out of the park for this comment. It was demeaning and ridiculous.

    But while I was completely independent and capable, the breakup did force me to do different things. I kept some friends and lost others in the split, and had to learn to create a new friend group as an adult. I went out and did new things that were scary for me. I started running, and when I ran the Manhattan Bridge for the first time and felt like I was truly a full person. Myself. It was wonderful.

    I guess what I’m saying is, don’t assume that your person is truly dependent on you. But also, please believe me that the outcomes (bumpy or smooth) of your breakup might open the door to a fantastic experience. I hope that’s the case for both of you.

    1. When my ex and I split all our mutual friends stayed his friends, and I went and met new people as well! I didn’t mind! They were mostly his friends that welcomed me into their circle kindly enough anyway!

      Good for you, though, for getting out there and doing things that made you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s what we need for us to stay healthy, and in the end, you never know the results can be magnificent! And not alot of people are able to push them selves to do so, especially after a break up. So, that is amazing.

  67. Gosh, a post with open comments that I can also comment on!

    When my biggest (longest until my now-marriage) relationship ended, we were students, living abroad, he moved to stay with me and carried on his PhD, we loved each other, but I discovered halfway through my postgrad (the entire reason either of us were abroad) that I was not IN LOVE WITH him anymore. So like – quite large financial and emotional stakes, really. Could have been a messy international drama. Ended up being absolutely okay for us both in the end.

    We had a hard but loving/ caring talk about what was happening. We agreed a review point which was also a natural end point where he would have to renew or end his stay in the country, and then we ended up breaking up. It was amicable. We had 2,000 miles of distance between us and when he left, within six months I was dating the person I married.

    Because part of the reason we broke up, was that I was not In Fact interested in long term sexual and romantic relationships with men.

    We are actually still quite good friends. He and his then-newlywed wife visited us on their honeymoon tour, we message twice a year, if he’s here he would look us up and vice versa.

    He’s an absolutely lovely, and loving, human and we were able to be amicable and kind when this happened, we were as honest with one another as we could be. And I’m glad to still have him (and my other Big Male Ex) in my life. It didn’t have to be that way but it basically ended well and I have to say, it is quite lucky in some ways – neither of us had been to any therapy at that point, other than some talking counselling around my parents divorce.

    If things had gone totally south, I could have found another place to live – I had student friends and classmates – and I could have looked on Craigslist or gumtree or whatever the kids are using these days. In an absolute bind my university might have helped out somehow – the following year I did get a student resident assistant job that covered my rent, which was great. That might not be possible for everyone (well, numerically, literally not – but it also might not be everyone/s cuppa).

  68. When I was in my first ever relationship, it became clear probably 6ish months in that my then-partner and I were great for each other at that time, but did not have the same long term goals. We talked about this (multiple times over the next few months) and eventually made a decision that we would stay together until I moved away for grad school, at which point we would end things. That turned out to be the best decision ever. We ended up dating for a total of 2 years, we were super clear with each other about what we were and weren’t, and then when I moved, we broke up amicably. It was still super sad and there was a lot of crying and talking about how maybe, we should try the long-distance thing, but we trusted ourselves to have made the right decision. Now, 15 (!!) years later, we are still close friends, each have other relationships, and are very happy that we did things the way we did.

  69. When I was 19 or 20 I had been with my fiance for about a year. We were both so in love with eachother for that year, got engaged, had (and lost) a pregnancy, got our own home. He was absolutly amazing. Unfortunately, after that year I started to pull away because that relationship wasn’t like any other I’d been in (I probably was scared of being treating the right way, I know fucked) anyways, while I started to question our relationship I’d bumped into a dude I used to crush on in high school. And, when I told my fiance how I was feeling and that I’d bumped into the other guy. My finance told me in the most gentle voice to think about what I truly wanted and who I wanted and that what ever I chose he loved me and respected me. I chose to leave I didn’t think it was right of me to Stay. .. that weekend, while I was at my mom’s he moved him and his sons out of our home and made sure to call when he was out so I could go home and we didn’t both have to deal with the sadness and whatnot while he was moving his things out ….. he left me all the furniture and took only his sons things.. .left all the rest for me, left all the groceries, ect and when I decided I couldn’t live in our home without him. He brang me half of the damage deposit when our landlord gave it to him, when I asked him why he said it was only fair. Because, it was both ours. I also had been on his cell plan and had got a phone , he gave me one week to figure out a new phone/plan and transfer everything over before he came and got it. … we talked a few years back … and we even talked about seeing eachother again (I didn’t want to hurt him again so it didn’t happen.) However, if we were to see eachother out and about there’s no doubt we’d stop to say hey maybe even go for a coffee…. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that one!

  70. I had a similar experience after moving across the country with my college boyfriend. He was my first romantic relationship, and we dated for six years. After a while it just didn’t feel like he was the right person for me. It was a really hard decision and it took forever to come around, but once I made it, I started planning to move out. I found a bunch of decent sounding roommate situations on Craigslist and went to visit a handful of houses for a vibe check over the next couple weeks. I took stock of where all the items I would want take with me when I moved actually were (all our books were mixed together, for example). I reserved a U-Haul van and lined up a discreet, non-mutual friend for assistance. Then, we had the hard conversation, and I told him the date I was moving out. I felt kind of sneaky pretending like nothing was wrong for the weeks leading up to that, but I think it was the best way to do it. I also moved out at the beginning of the month, and paid rent for that month and the following month to give him significant time to find a roommate. I let him know that I really valued our friendship, and that I would give him as much space as he needed, but if he ever felt like he wanted to be friends, I was definitely open to it. It only took him two weeks to reach out, and he’s still one of my best friends eight years later.

  71. I’m so happy this comment thread exists, and I’m going to bookmark it for repeated future reference.

    A lot of people, and especially younger people who don’t have much/any direct experience, get really bad ideas of what romantic relationships are supposed to look like – including the end of them – because conflict makes for engaging stories. So an overwhelming majority of our representations – from fictional TV/movie/book/song portrayals to “real” dating stories in magazines and advice columns to personal anecdotes – are full of conflict, to a degree that’s unrealistic and that makes people believe that romantic relationships are unrealistically, unhealthily, inherently conflict-prone, difficult to navigate, and should only end in high drama. I think this both sets people up to do too much work and sacrifice too much to stay in relationships where they’re not happy (and which really should just be finished) AND provides cover for serious abuse that people rationalize as “relationships are hard” and “relationships take work.”

    We need more stories with boringly stable relationships and boringly healthy/considerate breakups; the stories don’t have to be boring, the problem is that far too many writers only mine the obvious source of potential conflict in romantic relationships for excitement rather than try to come up with situational or systemic conflict to drive drama.* I think we’ve been doing a better job as a society in recent years of repudiating the “stalking is romantic” tropes of the “romantic” “comedy” genre, so maybe tackling the “high-conflict relationships characterized by an oppositional attitude and manipulation are totally normal and healthy” tropes is a good place to pivot.

  72. In late 2020 I was hunkered down with my normally long-distance partner, when he realised that he didn’t see us together forever, very much like LW. And very much like LW he loved me and liked being with me a lot, and I liked being with him, and because of the pandemic, neither of us intended to date anyone else for a good while. So we decided to break up later, either when he moved on to his next position (academia!), one of us felt physically safe to date, or one of us didn’t want to be together anymore, whichever happened first.

    It ended up being the first (moving to a new country and new job), and we broke up literally yesterday morning.

    I’m sad, but so far I don’t regret how we did this. It was a super weird situation, plus we’re super weird people. What he did to make it work was be consistently honest and kind. We talked about it and checked in with each other regularly but not constantly. We made promises to be honest if we wanted to end it. I never felt condecended to or humoured or anything like that. And then we had a pretty great year and some.

    In the end we got a chance to say a proper goodbye, having already processed some of it, and having processed some of it together too, which is more than is often possible when relationships end.

  73. Please, FLOG, it is not a kindness to drag things out if you are no longer feeling it. As other commenters have said, it is extremely insulting to your partner to think that they will not be able to cope without you. They deserve to be with someone who sees them as a capable and confident. (Projecting my own feelings about an ex there, sorry!)

    Your feelings are yours and they are valid, but don’t stay from some misplaced sense of guilt or obligation.

    To get to what the Captain actually asked for, I had a…mixed…experience of being dumped by someone I lived with but things that worked:

    1) after dumping me, he left the house for several days so we both had space to process.
    2) I went away for a weekend at a festival I’d been looking forward to for ages while he packed up his things and got them out of the house
    3) we spent one evening together dividing up our shared property.
    4) at my request, he temporarily rented a storage unit and had his things there while he looked for a place. I absolutely hate living unpacked boxes around, and I’m still grateful he took the time and trouble to ensure I didn’t have to. if you have the money and opportunity and your ex is staying in your shared space, getting your stuff OUT quickly so they can start to adjust and make the space theirs is a real kindness.
    5) neither of us felt able to live together as roommates, so we didn’t. He stayed with his friends until he was able to get housing of his own.
    6) he continued paying the internet / phone bill for two months after he moved out. I transferred all the other bills to my name and paid them in full.
    7) there were a few weeks where he had to stay over in the house rather than with friends because of work things–he stayed in the guest room and treated the house as though he were a particularly polite guest…bringing his own food, cleaning up after himself, etc. Which was hard to see in some ways (i had done a lot of screaming for him) but also really helpful for making those experiences of cohabitation bearable.
    8) Other than confirming that I had a friend with me in the immediate aftermath of our breakup, my ex did not do anything to arrange people checking on me. I did it all for myself and had a few fabulous weekends (despite the immediate aftermath Really sucking) where friends came to visit and hangout.

    Things I wish I had done:
    1) Divided up our books together–we mostly kept them in separate parts of the bookshelf but I left this to him, and he went off with several of my books by mistake
    2) asked him to take his bike along with the rest of his property. I stored for him as it was not in the house, but it became an annoying issue when I came to move out and he couldn’t and wouldn’t come and deal with it

    Basically, echoing a lot of what had been already said above about the need to communicate timelines and boundaries about sharing your space and dividing up your properly. Obviously, hope for the best and prepare for the worst, but I think there’s something to be said for making an exit that is quick, clean, and complete. And also something to be said for assuming that your ex is capable, competent, and will be able to find support (NOT YOU) to get through all of this.

  74. For break-ups, I had an amazing A-B comparison back in the day. Person A, after a few dates, straight-up said, “This isn’t working for me. Let’s not, anymore.” What blew me away was: I fully expected to be devastated. I wasn’t. Like, at all. Still think of them fondly to this day.

    Person B tried the slow fade. When it finally became clear they had broken up with me, I went through the roof. “I did it that way because I didn’t want to hurt you.” Newsflash, dude: THAT DIDN’T WORK. Still feel boiling resentment whenever I think about that.

    So, from my experience: clarity and owning one’s decision is far more likely to bring, if not positive, at least much less bad results.

  75. Something you might consider is leaving the shared living space for a few days soon(ish) after the break up (hotel, friends place). This will give your ex some time to process, in their own space, without worrying about being seen.

    Of course, dont do this if you have concerns about the safety of your stuff or getting back in. But it doesnt sound like those are issues in your case.

  76. I broke up with a man I was living with, and it went fairly well. I waited until our lease was almost up, and then I told him that I wanted to break up because my feelings had changed, but that I still cared about him as a friend and as an important part of my life. We were not fighting when we had this discussion, so we started out calm. I think that helped. He was sad, but he was still friendly and he helped me to move. We stayed friends for a couple of years after that, and then sort of faded from each other’s lives when it became clear that he was still in love with me and I was still not in love with him. It was the least dramatic breakup I ever had.

    I had another live in boyfriend a few years before that, and our breakup did not go smoothly at all. He tried to either break or keep all of my stuff. I told him I was moving out and we were breaking up when we were already fighting, so the timing was bad. I had no exit strategy, and I ended up staying with my (awful) mother for a month or so until I found a new place. I had been paying our expenses, but he was well able to pay so that wasn’t the problem. He was just miserly. He stayed friends with my family, which made it harder. I made the huge mistake of having sex with him about a year later, and that just prolonged the awfulness. The whole situation was an excellent example of what not to do.

    OP, I hope it goes well for you. Please don’t feel like you need to stay with this person for years as a way of taking care of them. That seems like it would be bad for both of you, no matter how well intentioned you are. Life is too short and too precious to spend it like that.

  77. I’ve had Pretty Good Breakups before! I suggest the two of you sit down, have a talk about it, and settle out what you’d like your relationship to be after the fact. Given that you live together, this may be a little hard, but take time away from each other a bit. Go to a friend’s house. Stay in your room some. Try to be *just* roommates. Practice. Very notably, the two of you need to ignore each other a bit, especially because if he’s not as on board with the breakup as you, he’ll be sad. He will mope. It’s part of the breakup thing, even if you guys are going to be friends afterward. Try to stay out of his way. Give him alone time.

    That said, I’m very confused why you’re breaking up if you’re still using the word “love” here. You love him, but you…don’t love him?

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